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13 Green-Living Myths, Shattered


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Look to the Sun.


PHOTO: COURTESY SUNETRIC

One of the most common misconceptions about solar photovoltaic (PV) systems is that they’re not affordable. However, “There are a number of programs that contradict that belief,” says Alex Tiller, chief executive officer of Sunetric, a full-service renewable energy firm.

If you want to go solar, there are two basic options available. One is the purchase of a solar system through a finance program (example: a renewable energy loan from your bank) or a solar lease, which involves renting a PV roof system for an agreed-upon amount of time, during which you receive all or part of the electricity savings. Both can lower your immediate cost, out of pocket, to the utility company. Here are a few common myths surrounding PV systems:  

MYTH 8: A solar lease is definitely my best option.

FACT: That depends on your unique financial situation. “Always look at purchasing, and financing that purchase, before you think about leasing,” says Richie Aqui, managing director of Akamai Energy, a commercial and residential PV system provider. Why? As a purchaser, if you qualify for generous tax credits and can receive a good loan with a low interest rate, you’ll likely pay off your system in as little as five years. Currently, homeowners who purchase a PV system can receive a state tax credit of up to 35 percent of the system’s installed cost of the system and a 30 percent federal tax credit (capped at $5,000 per system).

Conversely, “With most leases, you’ll have a payment for 20-plus years,” Aqui says. And your installation company keeps the equipment and tax credits. The bottom line: “Leasing and saving some money on your electric bill is better than doing nothing, and for some customers, not committing to a high out-of-pocket expense is a lot easier to swallow,” says Aqui. Consult your lender and at least three reputable solar companies before deciding whether to lease or purchase.
 

MYTH 9: When purchasing PV, price is the most important consideration.

FACT: Price is important. But so are longevity and quality. “A solar company should, at minimum, have some form of engineering department taking a look at and approving the drawings,” says Tiller of Sunetric. In addition, “You have to look at who employs the majority of their workforce in Hawaii and who has the most experience,” advises Tiller.  
 

MYTH 10: It doesn’t matter where the equipment comes from. It’s all the same, really.

FACT: “Right now, the hot topic is on the manufacturing side of the industry,” says Carlson of Revolusun. “There has been coverage on defective panels and subpar materials and how they’re leaving customers with inoperable solar systems.” Remember to choose a company whose panel manufacturers have longevity in the industry. And make sure your system comes with an equipment and system performance warranties.  “We often find that many homeowners think solar modules are the same,” says Carlson. “We often hear from our sales team that they’re told, ‘Thank you for explaining the differences in your systems. I just assumed you guys all sold the same thing.”
 

MYTH 11: I should hold out on installing PV until the technology improves.

FACT: “There are a number of people waiting for that next big leap in technology,” says Tiller. “The reality is, that’s probably not going to happen any time soon. From an increase in efficiency standpoint, we’ve seen a slight rise year-to-year, but rarely more than that.” What’s more, “We’ve hit all-time lows in pricing [on PV systems],” says Tiller. “The technology is predictable, it’s known and it’s not really changing dramatically. So there’s no time better than now to invest in PV.”
 

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